O Rex Gentium - an Advent reflection

A reflection on O Rex Gentium … O King of the Nations

During the pandemic, there have been many polls to gauge public levels of trust in governments and institutions. The words from Psalm 146 (vv3-5) come to mind:

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.  When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day, his plans perish.  Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.”

These words remind us that no man or woman can truly fulfil all our hopes and expectations. As humans, none of us possess the wisdom and power we wish for. We will make mistakes. We will be opposed or resented by others sometimes, which will thwart our plans. 

God warned the people of Israel not to be jealous of the neighbouring peoples with their powerful kings, nor to emulate the worship of authorities and gods that other nations offer. Likewise, we are often tempted to place our all our hope in governments, scientists, and other institutions. But, as these verses remind us, “in a son of man … there is no salvation”.

God devised a new kind of kingship: the son of David, the King Jesus. He named him Rex Gentium, even addressing Jesus directly as the Creator in Genesis 2:7: ‘O come and save man whom you made from clay’. For followers of Christ, he becomes the foundation or ‘cornerstone which makes all one' (Ephesians 2:20). Jesus is not just the king of nations, but the ‘King whom all the people desire’ (Haggai 2:8). Jesus stands in contrast to the powers of this world who sometimes wield that power recklessly.

Happy we are when we choose Jesus as our leader. He gives us unparalleled peace and calm if we follow Him. May we remain faithful to our King’s desires so that we might begin in this life what, with the help of God’s love, we shall do eternally in heaven; that is, live in glory with Jesus, who in overcoming evil with good, is the true King. (St. Francis de Sales)

O Rex Gentium - Malcolm Guite

O King of our desire whom we despise,
King of the nations never on the throne,
Unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone,
Rejected joiner, making many one,
You have no form or beauty for our eyes,
A King who comes to give away his crown,
A King within our rags of flesh and bone.
We pierce the flesh that pierces our disguise,
For we ourselves are found in you alone.
Come to us now and find in us your throne,
O King within the child within the clay,
O hidden King who shapes us in the play
Of all creation. Shape us for the day
Your coming Kingdom comes into its own.

© Malcolm Guite, from the Great O Antiphons in Sounding the Seasons, Canterbury Press 2012 www.malcolmguite.com Used by permission.


Please join now in saying The Magnificat , with the sixth great antiphon

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed
the almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm
and scattered the proud in their conceit,

Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.

He has come to the aid of his servant Israel
to remember his promise of mercy.

The promise made to our ancestors
To Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father and to the Son
And to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning is now
and shall be for ever

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

From Common Worship © The Archbishops Council of the Church of England 2000-2006

The Bible quotations are from The New Revised Standard Version Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved